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Question #93137 posted on 06/30/2020 11:35 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

What are some of the best books you've read this year and why?

-Book Boi

A:
Dear BB,
  • The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North—for an actually consistent use of time travel.
  • How to Invent Everything by Ryan North—for when your time machine breaks in the past.
  • Dragonkeeper by Carole Wilkinson—historical fantasy set in ancient China. How did I not hear about this before?
  • My Short Stay in Hell by Steven L. Peck—hell involves big, BIG numbers.
  • Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samit Nosrat—it will teach you not only how to cook, but why.
  • Meanwhile by Jason Shiga—a lovely graphic choose-your-own-adventure book that doesn't use an ingenious system of arrows and tabs instead of page numbers.
-El-ahrairah
A:

Dear friend,

If you know me IRL, you probably know that I've been nerding out over The Witcher series. First 5+ book epic fantasy series I've read in probably a decade and I devoured it. I really enjoy the way it takes common fantasy tropes and subverts them. Also the humor is dry and dark and I love it.

I've also been reading a lot of religious and philosophical books to try and face my existential crisis head on. Still no closer to figuring things out... at all. But at least I'm trying.

-Van Goff

A:

Dear Boi,

I'm drawn to memoirs and the best one I read this year was hands down Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. Each story was funnier than the last and the ending was so banana-pants crazy I thought I might scream. Seriously, I couldn't put it down. I laughed myself stupid reading about all of Noah's childhood exploits (he burned down a white family's house!) and it taught me about life in South Africa.

I also read Michelle Obama's Becoming, which was illuminating because I didn't know much about her background. I knew she was a lawyer, but I didn't know anything about her childhood, I didn't know her dad had MS, and I didn't know she dealt with infertility. I loved hearing her side of things and about the experiences that shaped her, especially since I live in a red state where a lot of people still resent her for trying to give school children healthy lunches. (What is wrong with people?)

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng completely sucked me in, but every time someone asked me what it was about I couldn't think of something concrete to say because there are so many stories woven together. So I'd just say it's about a town in Ohio in the 90's, which doesn't sound interesting at all, but trust me, it is. It was actually going to be my book club book in April and I was going to be socially brave and actually have people over to my house, but then everything shut down and while I'm relieved I don't have to have anyone over I'm a little worried about my fledgling book club surviving.

The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix. Hoo boy. I am not a vampire person. I never read Twilight, but I did read Dracula for the first time earlier this year and while I'm sure it was groundbreaking at the time it was maddening to read as a modern reader and as a woman. Seriously, one character keeps waking up with all her blood missing and everyone is like, hmmm, would it be a good idea to repeatedly let her sleep alone in this room that always has a giant bat outside the window? Hmmmm. Anyway, I appreciated reading Dracula because it lays down the rules of how vampires operate, which we all think we know without knowing how we know it. TSBCGTSV takes those rules and breaks a lot of them, and it feels like you're right there with the characters because they also only know what they know about vampires from movies. I found the characters to be very relatable, which surprised me because the author is a man, but he hits the dilemma of the dependent suburban Southern housewife right on the head. The men in this book are so patronizing you'll want to scream. There were little bits of humor to relieve the tension, but overall this book sucked me in, scared the living daylights out of me, and completely grossed me out, and yet here I am recommending it to you.

-Genuine Article

A:

Dear BB8

When I started working from home I also started taking a lunch break, and I've gotten to read half an hour a day. I can't remember the last time I've read for fun so consistently. Anyway, I finally caught up with The Stormlight Archives (or Way of Kings series, as I like to call it) by Brandon Sanderson. I see I'm not the only person to recommend them here, and for good reason. They can take a while to get into, but it's worth it if you push through till you're hooked!

-the Goose Girl

A:

Dear Book Boi,

I think I reread The Stormlight Archive twice since the last alumni week, and I'll do it again before Rhythm of War comes out in November.

Based on a recommendation from Brandon Sanderson in one of his streams, I looked into Guy Gavriel Kay and read The Fionavar Tapestry. It was pretty good, kinda like The Chronicles of Narnia but more adult and with a bunch of Welsh influence thrown in. It really made me want to reread both The Chronicles of Narnia and The Chronicles of Prydain.

I started The Wheel of Time last month. I'm starting the seventh book now. I like it, though there are some quirks to Jordan's writing that I could do without - mostly lots of sniffing and an apparent obsession with breasts.

I liked Skyward, but I haven't read Starsight yet because the library situation right now is less than ideal.

Finally, the books I didn't like: I read the first two books in the Lightbringer series and I was thoroughly unimpressed. Aside from the matters of personal taste - like the "flawed character" thing where you just have a bunch of people being horrible to each other - my main issues were with the linguistics and the setting, and most of it boils down to the feeling that the author took our world and smashed some magic into to see what came out instead of actually making his own world from scratch. The author made up words, but he based them on Greek and Latin, and he even borrowed Spanish words (javelina, burro, Corregidor) for no reason. Don't even get me started on "subred" and "superviolet." But he couldn't even stop at words, he imported entire idioms, many of them of biblical origin, with little or no modification. Speaking of biblical idioms, the religion in the books is not subtle at all about using Christian language; corruption runs rampant in the religious system in the books, but because the author couldn't be bothered to actually differentiate it from real world religion, it feels like he's just making a commentary on real world organized religion. Most, if not all, cultures appear to be directly borrowed from some real world ancient culture, from ziggurats to Egyptian pyramids. There's only one animal (sea demon) that isn't found here on earth, and even sea demons aren't anything new that the author came up with. The existence of flintlock and matchlock pistols felt really out of place, but I won't pretend to know enough about the history of technology to come up with a reason why. Finally, characters regularly refer to "drafting" - the magic system in which people harness and shape light of different colors into physical form - as "magic." Now, it's okay for you and I to call that "magic," because we know that it's not part of our natural world, but if you want to make a fantasy world that includes this mechanic as an established and well-studied part of its physics, you can't just go around calling it magic as if you were waving a wand and saying abracadabra. Like I said, all of these issues come down to feeling like the world was cobbled together instead of built from scratch, and it consistently broke the immersion for me.

-The Entomophagist

A:

Dear Book Boi,

Some of the best fantasy books I've read in the past year are:

  • Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier - If you like poignant, bittersweet fantasy that will also teach you a little bit of the history of young chimney sweeps in London, you will like this book.
  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow - I picked this one up because it was a Goodreads choice nominee for Best Fantasy and it was, IMO, better than the book that won in that category. A girl named January finds a book that prompts her to go on a journey to find her own voice and discover her own power. The prose is absolutely beautiful. How could I not love the metaphor of books as doors to other worlds?
  • The Burning White (Lightbringer Book 5) by Brent Weeks - I gotta disagree with The Entomophagist on this one, this series was fun. I found it to be a satisfying conclusion to an entertaining series with flawed yet endearing characters. This is epic fantasy, so be prepared for long books, a very different magic system and terminology, plus religion and politics, but it's epic fantasy done well and the investment pays off in the end.
  • The Toll (Arc of a Scythe Book 3) by Neal Shusterman - What a ride, and a finish I did not see coming. I loved this series. This is how you do YA dystopia!

--Maven

A:

Dear Doctor,

  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer. The first part in a set of fairy-tale retellings, it's the best reimagining of Cinderella I've ever read.
  • The Angel and the Assassin: The Tiny Brain Cell That Changed the Course of Medicine by Donna Jackson Nakazawa. This provided me with some insights into possible treatment for my depression, and I'm really excited to explore those.
  • Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others by Barbara Brown Taylor. I picked this up on a whim from my local library, and I absolutely loved it. So much that I now have a copy for myself to be able to mark up. It focuses on finding the good things in how other people live their religions and incorporating understandings of beliefs into your own faith (particularly as a Christian). This should be required reading at BYU.
  • Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You by Lin-Manuel Miranda. This is just a printed version of some of his tweets, but it's nice to have a hard copy instead of digging through the mess that is Twitter.
  • Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool by Emily Oster. If you read just one book on parenting, let it be this one. This book just gives you the data so that you can better make the decisions that are right for you and your family.

-Tally M.

A:

Dear friend,

Pretty much I just read sociology books now so here's what I've read and why they're amazing: 

- Whatever it Takes by Paul Tough 

This book is a really excellent in depth look at the amazing beginnings of Geoffrey Canada's Harlem Children's Zone and Promise Academy. It provides an incredible hypothesis about a solution to poverty and education in America and has gotten me thinking about his idea of "positive contamination." The idea of saving every child seems impossible... but if you help *enough* people, you can change the landscape of the area so it becomes "normal" for people to go to college, and the culture morphs to include middle-class ideologies while not sacrificing all of what makes Harlem unique. SUCH an interesting read. 

- Negotiating Opportunities by Jessica Calarco 

Okay, Jess is my muse, my role model, my angel. I really really want to meet her. She's got this amazing talent for synthesizing information and connecting old ideas and presenting new ones. I cannot beLIEVE how well she does with this book. It's a great ethnography, I'd totally recommend it if you wanted to get to know what kind of techniques you should use. She writes smoothly, confidently, and convincingly to explain how and why middle-class students with similar abilities end up getting ahead of their working-class peers in school. 

- Becoming by Michelle Obama

ANOTHER one of my role models, the First Lady is a queen, so full of grace, eloquence, patience, and pretty much just inspirational material. Highly recommend the read. You learn a lot, you feel inspired, you feel moved, you just feel good. 

- Unequal Childhoods by Annette Lareau 

I'm a sucker for female ethnographers doing class-based family sociology, in case you haven't noticed. This is a classic that everyone should read and get to know, it makes you aware of things you never would have thought about and really brings complexity and depth to the conversation about inequality. 12/10 would recommend. 

- The Years That Matter Most by Paul Tough

If you ever want to read a book that makes you confident you made the right choice in coming to college but simultaneously makes you question everything you've ever done? This is that book. It's an excellent outline about how college can "make or break us," and how the university system in America can also further contribute to or aid against inequality. Personally I disagree on some of the conclusions he seems to make, but it's a great book to get you thinking about education inequality. 

There isn't any fiction or "exciting" books here. I'm kind of geeky about sociology and I'm not gonna apologize for that. 

Cheers, 

Guesthouse

A:

Dear Boi Book,

The New Geography of Jobs, by Enrico Moretti - (I almost wrote "The Mew Geography of Jobs," which is an entirely different book.) This was planned for this month's book club since November of last year, and let me just say it's going to be a totally different discussion now, after a huge percentage of people have worked from home for several weeks. The author pretty much says, "Hey, when the internet first came about, we all thought that no one would ever have to move again because we'd all work from home forever and geography would become irrelevant. Guess what! That didn't happen! And here's why!" He discusses what drives economies (right now, ours is the idea market), what makes an area a "hot spot," what happens to other job markets in a hot spot for the predominant market, what happens to areas that are not hot spots and why, why proximity matters, what kinds of things are affected that you might not expect .... etc. The Wall Street Journal called it “the most important book of the decade on the contemporary economy," and the whole time I read it, I kept thinking, "OK, yeah." 

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, by David Epstein - Most. Validating. Book. Ever. This book basically argues that there's a place for people who start at age 3 becoming the best in their field, and we need those people, but mostly we need people who don't do that. His argument is that certain fields really benefit from that kind of specialization, but most fields and our general needs as a society tend to benefit more from the adaptability and interconnectedness of thought that comes from a greater breadth of different kinds of experiences. It's a great book.

The Four Tendencies, by Gretchen Rubin - This book says, "What if we made a personality test based on how people respond to expectations? And then talked a lot about how easily each type is able or not able to fulfill inner and expectations? How would each of those types function most effectively?" It's so. good. The four types are Upholders (easily fulfill both inner and outer expectations - these people need to read this book so they can understand how to relate to everyone else!), Questioners (can fulfill inner expectations but struggle with outer expectations unless they can justify them and turn them into inner expectations, or unless they really trust the source), Obligers (great with outer expectations but struggle with inner expectations - often prioritizing others' expectations at the expense of their own projects, sometimes to the point of resentment and extreme frustration), and Rebels (struggle with both inner and outer expectations, do best with "information, consequences, choice.") All the Tendencies can lean toward others but pretty much everyone falls primarily into one category. This book is super helpful in terms of understanding which types of structure can help you do what you really want to do, what strengths to capitalize on and how to compensate for the drawbacks of your tendency, how to work with others of different Tendencies, and why you shouldn't judge everybody who does it differently from you! So good.

-Olympus

A:

Dear Book ~

The Stormlight Archive. I’m listening to them for the second time… this year. Probably the 5th or 6th total. 

I second Olympus' The Four Tendencies, though I don't actually think I read it this year. Instead I will recommend Better than Before also by Gretchen Rubin, and the Four Tendencies are discussed in there. The focus of this book, though, is to look at several "Know Yourself Better" questions and use those discoveries about yourself to help shape habits that will actually stick. I listened on Audible then promptly bought the physical book so I could study it like a textbook.

~ Dragon Lady

A:

Dear Book

Novels

  • The Lion in The Valley
  • The Wheel of Time: The Eye of the World
  • Magic 2.0: Off to be the Wizard
  • Flora & Ulysses
  • Emma
  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead
  • Daniel Deronda
  • Steelheart
  • Firefight
  • The Hunger Games
  • Catching Fire
  • Mockingjay
  • The Early Cases of Hercule Poirot (short story collection)
  • The Fellowship of the Ring
  • Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America

And a few short stories

  • "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle"
  • "The Lottery"
  • "The Most Dangerous Game"
  • "The Masque of the Red Death"
-Humble Master
A:

Dear Book Boi,

The Three Body Problem trilogy is harder science fiction than I typically read but I liked it and felt proud of myself for finishing it! I also liked that it complemented my efforts to learn Chinese and learn more about that side of my heritage.

-Owlet

A:

Dear Booky Boi,

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

This book was eye-opening. The business and religious worlds are so extrovert-oriented that being introverted is often seen as a character flaw, instead of just another way of thinking.  I feel like I'm definitely an introvert, so I appreciated that.

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

This one was creative and hard to put down. I don't know if I loved the ending, but it was an entertaining book and I would still recommend it.

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

It had been a while since I reread these, and it was a lot of fun. 

Mostly I'm realizing that I didn't read as much as I would have liked in the past year, and I have a list about 20 books long from everyone else's answers.

-The Skipper

A:

Dear BB-8,

I really enjoyed the Epic Failure trilogy by Joe Zieja. I found out about him as the voice actor for Claude from Fire Emblem: Three Houses but it turns out he writes books too. He narrates his own audiobooks for this trilogy, and they're wonderful. This trilogy is a science fiction story about a space military where pretty much everyone is hilariously incompetent, and it's a fun ride throughout.

I wasn't pleased with The Rise of Skywalker, so I decided to go back to some of my favorite expanded universe books, starting with Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire. That was a good read, and I'm looking forward to finishing the trilogy.

Right now, I'm rereading The Stormlight Archive in preparation for Book 4. It was my fourth time reading The Way of Kings and my third time reading Words of Radiance. Next will be my second time reading Oathbringer, which I'm particularly excited for because I don't remember it as well as the first two. Those books are so epic and expertly crafted. I thought it would take me all year to do my reread but I got sucked in and I'll be ready for the next book release with plenty of time to spare.

-Kirito

A:

Dear BB,

The best book I've read all year is God’s Bits of Wood by Sembene Ousmane. It is a book about the Senegalese railroad strike shortly after WWII. The book takes place in a bunch of different locations in Senegal from the point of view of many (10+) different characters. It was crazy how Sembene wove it all together in a wonderful, seamless way. The book is a roller coaster and I literally cheered and booed at different parts of the book.

Also, the striking, protesting, rioting, and political reform in the book are like super relevant now.

Peace,

Tipperary

A:

Dear Reader,

~Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. It tells the story the families of two half sisters from Ghana around the 1600s--one of them is married off to a white slave trader who lives on the coast to oversee the slave ships, and one of them is sold into slavery. The book then follow each family line down the generations up to the present day, and you see the huge impact of slavery and the slave trade on both lines. It deals with heavy subject material, but it's interesting and important and gets you to care about the characters, and I would strongly recommend it.

~Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran. I read this after seeing another writer (maybe Petra?) recommend it last alumni week, and it didn't disappoint! The story centers around a baby boy who two families lay claim to--one of them is his biological mother, who loves him and wants him, and the other family is a couple who tries to adopt him after his mother gets deported. 

~Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. The more I read of Neil Gaiman, the more I fall in love with his writing. This book broke up the series of heavy, pressing books I usually read, and was just fun and whimsical and imaginative. (Plus it has good commentary on how we treat the marginalized in society.)

~Welcome to the Monkeyhouse by Kurt Vonnegut. This is a collection of short stories, all of which are classic Vonnegut--that is, satirical, dark, wry, and witty, and overall it was just a really enjoyable read.

~There There by Tommy Orange. If you're anything like me, you probably don't read enough books by Native American authors, and I would strongly recommend this if you're looking for a jumping off point into that world of literature. It weaves together the stories of multiple different Native people living around Oakland, California in the present day, and it's compelling and sad and funny and interesting.

~With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo. Acevedo started out as a high school English teacher, and then realized her students would be more into reading if they ever saw people like them represented in books, and then realized SHE could write representative books. All of her books are fun and easy to read, with a great diverse cast of characters, and they're just a breath of fresh air. And I really love the cover art for this one. It's cute.

~How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. This book is in EXTREME demand right now, but I think it's deserved. It goes through several misconceptions about race/racism one by one and debunks them, and then gives concrete ways to change your thinking/actions to be antiracist. Kendi is incredibly educational and unapologetic about his message without being condescending or obnoxious. It's a great book for anyone at any point in the journey of becoming antiracist, and I would strongly recommend it for everyone, but especially for people looking to educate themselves right now. It takes a while to get through (at least it did for me), but is worth the time you have to put into it.

~Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. Its opening line is, "Lydia is dead," which is a bold way to start a book about Lydia. It's part mystery as you try to figure out what happened to Lydia, and part small town drama, and part slice of life fiction, and completely good writing.

~Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. This is WWII historical fiction, so right up my alley, and it talks about a real event that I had never heard of before. It follows refugees from Eastern Europe caught between Hitler and Stalin, and although I don't love all the writing in it, I can still wholeheartedly recommend this book because the events it talks about are so important and often forgotten.

~Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings edited by Joanna Brooks, Hannah Wheelwright, and Rachel Hunt Steenblik. If you consider yourself a Mormon feminist, read this book! If you don't consider yourself a Mormon feminist but want to know why some people do, read this book. If you want to understand more about the historical and contemporary role of women in the Church, read this book. It's a compilation of essays, and while I didn't love and agree with every single one of them, there were some that really changed my perspective. It took me several months to work my way through it, and wasn't necessarily "fun" to read, but I'm including it because of the ideas and history in it.

-Alta

A:

Dear you,

I had to read SO many books over this last year. Two I unequivocally recommend for everyone are:

-How to Hide an Empire by Daniel Immerwahr

-Fearing the Black Body by Sabrina Strings

Both books are enjoyable to read for a general audience and have a lot of information that will drastically alter how you understand a lot of social issues today.

-Zedability 

A:

Dear book boi, 

Master of the Senate, by Robert Caro. If you like Game of Thrones and also US history, this is a must-read.

Something That May Shock and Discredit You, by Daniel Mallory Ortberg. I'm going be thinking of his riffs on Gawain and the Green Knight and The Addams Family for a long time.

Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis. I read this every few years, but never has it been more timely!

Down Girl: the Logic of Misogyny, by Kate Manne. I've read a lot of books about feminism (like, a lot) and very few have fully changed (or, more precisely, clarified and edified) my thinking like this one. 

Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo. I love a good chapter-per-viewpoint, everyone-is-connected novel. And that ending!

Guest House For Young Windows: Among the Women of ISIS, by Azadeh Moaveni. What motivates a woman to join ISIS? Lots of things, as it turns out. 

The Preacher's Wife: the Precarious Power of Evangelical Woman Celebrities, by Kate Bowler. Focused on evangelicals but also very relevant to Mormonism. 

Tabernacles of Clay, by Taylor Petrey. My full review here

The Buried: An Archaeology of the Egyptian Revolution, by Peter Hessler. I'm a sucker for his type of journalism, and, having studied abroad in Alexandria back in the day, I'm also a sucker for stories of Egypt. 

For some reason (ahem, shelter-in-place) my attention span isn't what it used to be, and I guess I haven't liked that many novels so far this year?

- Petra

A:

Dear you,

I cannot recommend highly enough Stealing Home. It has everything; baseball, communism, an actually humanizing and gorgeous reflection on Mexican immigrants, religious awakenings, and a deep love for Los Angeles.

And that link will take you to buy it from one of the best independent bookstores in LA. No need to support Amazon!

-Ace

A:

Dear is this enough books for you?,

Scifi: Children of Time

Psychological thriller: My Sister the Serial Killer

Literary Horror: Beloved

Nonfiction: The Woman Who Smashed Codes

-Mico

A:

Dear BB,

I second Mic0's recommendation of Children of Time, which is a book about if spiders evolved to be highly intelligent. I also recommend a fictional memoir about growing up as a Mormon girl: Irreversible Things by Lisa Hadley.

-Whistler

A:

Dear you,

I hesitate to call these the absolute best books I've read in the past year, but two of my favorites are Circe by Madeline Miller, and The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. Circe is seriously a work of art. Scenes are described in exquisite detail, and I absolutely loved seeing prominent Greek myths through the eyes of a female storyteller. The Silence of the Girls is very dark, and very graphic. It follows the Trojan war, but with Briseis, a Trojan queen who was made into Achilles bed-slave. Again, I love the portrayal of events through a female protagonist. 

~Anathema

A:

Dear Book Boi,

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. 

Have you ever heard people discuss racism and thought that it wasn't relevant to you (because you're a good person, not a racist)?

Have you ever heard about white privilege and felt defensive because it doesn't seem like your life has been that privileged?

Have you ever said things like "I don't see color" or "We're all the same on the inside anyway"?

Then this book is for you. In fact, all white Americans in all stages of wokeness would benefit by reading this. Like, I thought I was a reasonably woke, educated liberal, who works with and cares for many BIPOC. I still needed this book. It really opened my eyes on how much I have to learn and how far I have to go in regards to both personal bias and in eradicating systems-based racism. I haven't read a lot of books that have done this much to change my worldview. Highly recommend!

- Eirene

A:

Dear Book Boi,

I've only finished four books this year so far (working on my fifth), so I'll just share what I liked about each one:

The Secret Commonwealth, by Philip Pullman. This is the sequel to the prequel to His Dark Materials, taking place some ten years after The Amber Spyglass. I liked that Pullman is continuing to dig deeper into the whole idea of daemons and the variety of relationships people have with their daemons. I also appreciate his more nuanced depictions of religious people. Don't get me wrong, the villains of the sequel series are still prominent figures in the institutionalized state religion, but he's taken the time to show that more ordinary people who ascribe to said religion are not necessarily evil and can, in fact, be quite kind. Can't wait for the next book in who knows how many years.

La Belle Sauvage, by Philip Pullman. This is said prequel to His Dark Materials, taking place ten years before The Golden Compass (and hence roughly 20 years before The Secret Commonwealth). This was a re-read because I liked The Secret Commonwealth so much and wanted to remind myself of certain things that were referenced in that book that I'd forgotten (which took place in La Belle Sauvage). An excellent read on the second go: I'm still mad impressed at how well Pullman is able to create tension in this one, and I'll always be fascinated by the C.S. Lewis-like elements that show up toward the end (since Pullman is probably the last person on earth I'd expect to reference Lewis).

The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart. After I exhausted the currently-available entries of The Book of Dust, I was in a very particular reading mood. I described this mood to Vienna: she recommended The Mysterious Benedict Society, and I must say, it 100% hit the spot. I loved the characters as soon as I met them, and it was just a fun ride all the way through.

Beloved, by Toni Morrison. Swinging in the exact opposite direction after finishing The Mysterious Benedict Society, I decided I'd finally read the copy of Beloved I bought for my Masterpieces of American Literature class back in 2015 (I knew it had been a long time since I bought it, but I hadn't realized it was that long). We'd planned to read it at the end of the course, but time constraints and complaints from other students about the book's content meant that it was erased from the reading list. I personally hadn't been offended by anything I'd read thus far, but I didn't have the time to read it and so it's been sitting on my backlog for a while.

You may have noticed that I'm stalling. This is because Beloved is an expertly-crafted book, and an important book, and a book that contains beautiful language, but before I recommend reading it I feel I must warn you that Beloved is not going to be an easy book to read. There is a multitude of horrors inside the book, made all the more unsettling by the knowledge that, while the events described are fictional, they hew closer to real-world accounts than you would think possible.

Again: an amazing book. An important book (at least, by my estimation). But not one that I was able to read for long stretches at a time.

Finally, I have once again pulled a complete one-eighty and am presently reading Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. This came about because a while ago Vienna started watching the Netflix adaptation Anne With an E, and I sat in on a couple of episodes, enough to recognize the characters of Anne, Gilbert, Diana, Matthew, and Marilla. More recently, we found Vienna's DVD's of the most well-known movie adaptation (the one starring Megan Follows) and I watched all of the first movie. I'm reading the book now because I'm interested in it, and I'm interested in it because sometimes you want to just read a story where nice things happen to an orphan girl who's had a hard life and is deserving of so much love and warmth from those around her. SOMETIMES YOU JUST WANT THINGS TO BE NICE.

Looking ahead, I'll maybe read the sequels to The Mysterious Benedict Society and Anne of Green Gables. I'm also considering re-reading Uprooted by Naomi Novik; it was a good story, and very unique in terms of the fantasy books I'd read previously. Also, since that same American Literature class I mentioned before, I've made it a sort of tradition that I read The Road every summer (to Vienna's consternation). This is the first summer I might break that habit; it's not that the book has grown distasteful at all, more so that it's just feeling a bit well-trod at this point, and I might enjoy re-reading it in the future more if I don't revisit it quite so often.

Happy Reading!

-Frère Rubik